The Baker Orange

Wrestling moves to No. 17

Story by Hayley Morrical, Writer

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The Baker wrestling squad proved itself three times in one week. After beginning the season ranked No. 16 nationally, the team fell against big name programs, such as the University of Oklahoma, but is now pinning down both individual and team wins.

On Nov. 12, the wrestlers returned from Holton with a win against NCAA Division II ranked, University of Central Missouri, 22-16. After close matches in the beginning, the win came down to the final match of the 184-pound weight class between sophomore Bryant Guillen and UCM All-American Archie Williams. In the second period, Guillen pulled off a jaw-dropping pin to secure the team win.

Other Baker men who brought home individual wins include freshmen Billy Leone at 197 pounds and Alex Fortuna at 125, sophomore Bryce Shoemaker at 133 and senior Nick Haugen at 157. Shoemaker currently ranks as the top wrestler in the NAIA in the 133-pound weight class.

“This puts us in a good position (for the rest of the season), even though we are being put down in rankings. As long as we keep beating ranked teams and thriving, there is no reason we shouldn’t place at nationals,” freshman Zachary Balden said.

Over the weekend, Baker swept Benedictine College 40-3, Graceland University 38-15 and No. 4 Missouri Valley at the Heart of America Athletic Conference quad. Most impressive were the matches against Missouri Valley, when the Wildcats won by nearly double, 28-13.

“Everyone was so hyped,” Balden said. “We had never beaten them before so there was energy through the whole crowd. It was amazing,”

This tournament also led to Haugen being named the HAAC Wrestler of the Week. Haugen has currently undefeated at 4-0.

“It is awesome (for Haugen), especially when you hear his story,” Balden said. “He’s been wrestling great this season and if he keeps wrestling well there is no reason why he shouldn’t be a national champion.”

In his match against Benedictine, Haugen won after a pin in 1:55 in the first period. An even bigger accomplishment came when Haugen beat NAIA number one ranked wrestler, Jake Ester of Missouri Valley.

On Tuesday, the ‘Cats dominated at the Hannibal-LaGrange Triangular in Missouri. The team shut down Williams Baptist College, 19-16, and Hannibal-LaGrange University, 22-15.

In the Nov. 19 NAIA Wrestling Coaches’ Top 20 Poll Baker dropped one spot in the rankings to No. 17 in the NAIA.

“The past couple weeks we’ve beaten high-ranked teams, and I’m excited and we are just going to get better from here on out,” Balden said.

The team faces tough competition at the University of Iowa Quad this Friday in Iowa City, Iowa.

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